Adrian Vandenberg and Jake E. Lee have seemingly the same career path. Both were great in super huge bands (Vandenberg in Whitesnake, Lee in Ozzy), recorded even better material when they broke away (Lee with Badlands, Vandenberg with Manic Eden), and then both walked away and just left music behind for awhile. Now, both are back. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel is pretty solid, but it doesn't hold a candle to the new release from Vandenberg's MoonKings. Sort of a hybrid between 80s metal and 70s blues rock (think Zeppelin or even some Rolling Stones), this release comes as quite a surprise to people that are thinking they would find another big Whitesnake sounding album has been brewing with Vandenberg as he sat in seclusion for almost 20 years. In short, this release is probably not for the younger generation at all, but that takes nothing away from it. For those of us with a more classic rock slant to our musical taste, this is about as good as it gets.
There's something very unique about Ron Keel that I think has escaped most of his peers that were spawn from the 80s hair metal scene. For most, they have been content to stick to the formula that made them famous, only take an experimental shot once the mainstream popularity had run it's course, and then returned to their classic form to ride out their career. With Ron Keel, it's been a very different experiment which he has crafted into a career. As an artist, Keel is one of neverending experimentation. He's had hair metal albums, acoustic releases, country metal releases, and now more of a southern rock/metal record. METAL COWBOY seems to have a lot of people remembering Keel's project Iron Horse, but I'd say that is highly inaccurate. The "Metal Cowboy" is proving once again that he's more of a Metal Chameleon. Hard at times, bluesy in other parts and full of twists and turns, METAL COWBOY could very well be the best release Keel's had his name on since THE RIGHT TO ROCK.
House Of Lords
As melodic hard rock goes, James Christian has not only kept the band House Of Lords alive, but he's kept it relevant and smart throughout their career. While he was not the original voice of the band, he's been "the guy" on every release and has proven always seems to have some good ideas to keep the band driving creatively forward. Ultimately, over the course of their 9 studio releases, there's only been one that was a total dude (THE POWER AND THE MYTH). In fairness, that one could even be attributed to ring rust after 12 years away from the project. While unflashy, the last four releases have been very solid from start to finish. Returning with PRECIOUS METAL, Christian and his House Of Lords once again hit the consistency mark. They also rock just a little bit harder than you might expect for this release.
After listening to this every day for about a month, it's finally come time to write something about this latest effort from Scorpions. As a giant fan of the band, I firmly wanted to like this release, but after at last 20 listens, it's just not clicking with me. There's just something about it that feels wrong. The arrangements are a bit too happy and fun, for one thing. For another, the edge that made Scorpions one of the best bands of all time, even in their down years, is completely removed from this effort. I've seen a great many reviews out there stating that MTV UNPLUGGED is a must have for a diehard fan. That's untrue though, because as a diehard fan, this has almost no use for my collection. Long story short, I love Scorpions as much as the next 40 something that found them at any point in their historic career...but I have no need to hear these watered down versions of these songs.
Red Dragon Cartel
RED DRAGON CARTEL
Jake E. Lee - where have you been for the past two decades? Calling it the way it is, Jake E. Lee was one of the most recognizable sounds in hard rock/heavy metal for about five or six years. His work with Ozzy Osbourne on BARK AT THE MOON and THE ULTIMATE SIN were signatures to the Prince Of Darkness' biggest commercial success. He then moved onto Badlands, which is one of those bands that never got huge even though most now agree that it was one of the very best and most timeless bands of the late 80s and early 90s. In both cases, it was Jake's HUGE sound that propelled these projects. After that though, he was gone. Sure, there was the occasional sighting, like his solo A FINE PINK MIST release and then a somewhat surprise appearance on Enuff Z'nuff's DISSONANCE release, but ultimately the question of "where is Jake E. Lee" became one of folklore in the hard rock and heavy metal community.